Karen Lawson has barely been at CareerOne for a year but the business already looks nothing like the jobs board that News Ltd started in 2006.
Recruited from Yahoo!7 to replace former CEO Michael Harvey and interim CEO Dean Capobianco last January, Lawson has driven CareerOne through a large-scale restructure into a digital media business.
It’s already bringing in more revenue from advertising business line “Digital Headhunter” than from its traditional jobs listing platform – “our old core business”, Lawson says.
There’s no doubt that the Australia’s online jobs market is crushing newspaper classifieds but CareerOne has struggled, with SEEK dominating the market and social platforms snatching small portions away.
According to parent company Monster, which bought half the company from News in 2008, CareerOne operated at a net loss of $A17.6 million in 2009. Monster valued its investment in the company at $US323,000 at the time – that fell to $0 last December despite millions of dollars in capital injections.
“Across all job boards, there’s now just such a fragmentation in terms of how people find jobs,” Lawson said. “You see companies building their own Facebook pages, their own communities, and they’ve got different ways to create dialogues.
“So I think when we look at job listings going forward, maybe that’s not the right way to look at the industry.
“If we carried on being a job board, would we continue to be Australia’s number two? Probably.
“But there are different ways now that you can source talent and if there is a better way that delivers more candidates, more quickly, and passive candidates, then I think that’s a much more interesting business model that will help the Australian economy at large.”
CareerOne today unveiled its “business vision and 2014 developmental roadmap” – Lawson’s multi-pronged plan to transform it into a digital media company that sits on an incredible stash of data assets.
CareerOne’s traditional jobs listing business will be rebranded as a “Skills Exchange” that encompasses full-time, part-time, casual and task-based listings, with the latter category powered by an exclusive, July 2013 partnership with task listing start-up Airtasker.
A new feature, to be unveiled later this year, will help entrepreneurs get paid by letting them sell embryonic products to a targeted audience, in the style of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indigogo and Pozible.
Over time, the Skills Exchange will also act as an aggregator that pulls job advertisements from websites and social media using technology from Monster’s recent acquisition, Gozaik. Monster is due to reveal its plan for the Gozaik in May; Lawson said the technology would reach CareerOne accordingly.
As a jobs board, CareerOne made its money by charging recruiters to post job advertisements, which may then be seen and acted on by CareerOne’s million or so visitors a month.
It won’t be getting any such fees from aggregated advertisements.
“There are many benefits to having more content sitting on our site,” Lawson said, explaining that aggregated content would help generate more valuable data for CareerOne.
“If we’re able to provide a much more comprehensive solution for individuals to come in and interact with our environment, that’s also going to power things like Digital Headhunter – if you’re going through more content, that means you’re going to be more engaged.
“From a business perspective, that means we’re going to be able to offer our services at much more effective costs because we’re not going to have to pay marketing costs to bring eyeballs into our environment.”
CareerOne’s advertising business Digital Headhunter will be built on data about how its website visitors use the site: how they found CareerOne.com.au; what they searched for on the site; what they clicked on; and which pages they tended to visit after leaving the site.
That data lets CareerOne broadly categorise job seekers by industry, job title, gender and age and identify interests, so it can buy advertising space on other websites – be they news sites, shops or entertainment – to target certain individuals.
That information will help CareerOne determine where it places its own advertisements; it will also let it buy and sell targeted advertising space to brands like Coles, recruiter Hays and menswear label M.J. Bale.
“For M.J. Bale, for example, we looked at who are the people who are buying these suits? They do these kinds of job roles. So we can place their ad in front of a particular person,” Lawson explained.
“We’ve worked with online wine companies who are really interested in putting their brand in front of EAs and office managers because obviously they do bulk buying.
“How on earth do you do that with a normal publisher? For us, it’s really easy. We get the creative from their agency, we use our data layer, we programatically real-time buy [advertising space] and we place that ad in front of that EA or office manager.
“We exactly know what these people’s job types are. So it’s a really different way of looking at how we can help connect businesses to their chosen audiences not just for recruitment but also to help build their businesses.”
Pivoting a seven-year-old brand
While digital advertising and entrepreneurship are obviously key features of CareerOne’s new strategy, it’s still hedging its bets by rolling out and marketing more recruitment-centric features like video interviews, online career fairs, a LinkedIn-like “Talent Database” that lets job seekers store machine-readable resumes online, and a “Referral Amplifier” that lets individuals earn money by referring their friends for jobs.
As former general manager of business development and partnerships at Yahoo!7, Lawson acknowledges that she may not have been the obvious choice for a recruitment brand.
Her appointment reflects CareerOne’s desire for a different direction, transforming itself into what she describes as a targeted media business.
“It would have been easy to have maybe found a CEO from within the employment industry,” Lawson said. “I think it was a really decisive and conscious decision that they really wanted this business to go in a different direction.
“To do that, you’ve got to bring somebody in with a different skillset, a different mindset. I’ve been really pleased by the support I’ve received at an executive level.
“These are very challenging ideas; it’s almost the opposite of a traditional jobs board, where you want to bring all the eyeballs into your own environment, to say: ‘Let’s let go of that control. Why don’t we talk to Australians where they’re living their digital lives’.”
Not all staff have survived the change; Lawson acknowledged that some left within her first six months, as she pushed for a digitally native team that understood terms like programmatic buying, cookies, real-time buying, data exchanges, RTB, DMPs and DSPs.
She declined to disclose the number of redundancies and costs of the strategy, noting that CareerOne was keeping costs down by using pay-as-you-go technologies where possible, and striking partnerships with start-ups instead of having to buy any new businesses.
“We’ve been able to pivot our business into these new areas without having to acquire anybody,” she said. “I think [the new business lines] come from sound understandings of sound principles and trends that are global. I don’t believe they will fail.
“Also for the staff, to see that culture change … It’s a much more interesting role now than saying, do you want a job pack? 10 or 20?”